Flames doused on more downloading

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County may not be paying added costs to fight wildfires after all.
At its regular meeting Sept. 8, council approved a recommendation to oppose a proposal to transfer responsibilities and costs to fight wildfires that start in hamlets to rural municipalities from the provincial government.
The plan came from a resolution approved at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention in 2020, says Brett Hawken, director of protective services.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry approves the resolution to the provincial government.
He heard loud opposition from municipalities during a virtual engagement session Aug. 25 with the forestry ministry.
“It was clearly stated that the future costs and liability of any fires started in hamlets that move to the forest protection area are now the responsibility of the municipality,” Hawken says.
“After municipalities learned the implications of moving forward with this resolution, it was widely agreed upon that this is another downloading of costs and no one is in favour of the change.”
He was updated about the proposal with a forestry official Sept. 8.
“They’re not planning to make any changes at this time,” Hawken says.
He says the proposal would be further reviewed by Forestry later in September.
“It’s all or nothing,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.
Hawken says the RMA resolution was presented by Mackenzie County, whose hamlets are extremely low risk based on the topography of the land.

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